Army cadet instructor who groomed boys with cigarettes and beer jailed for sexual abuse

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'Determined predator' Stephen Finnigan was convicted of 29 offences involving indecent assault and rape.

A former Army cadet instructor, who ruined the lives of five young boys by sexually abusing them, was jailed for almost 30 years on Friday.

A judge told 63-year-old Stephen Finnigan: “You were a determined predator. You abused your position of trust and responsibility and power over each of these boys.” Judge Robert Trevor-Jones said that as he denied all the allegations and was convicted after a trial, he 'forced each of the victims concerned to attend court and be branded liars'.

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Jailing him for a total of 29 years six months with an extended one year licence, the judge said that Finnigan had groomed the boys with cigarettes and beer and caused them severe psychological damage.

Liverpool Crown Court heard that Finnigan, of Longfield Road, Litherland, Liverpool, committed the offences over a 12 year period in the 1980s and early 1990s with some overlap but mainly in succession.

He was an army cadet instructor and colour sergeant and was based at both Grace Road in Walton Vale and Browns Lane, Netherton when the offences occurred.  Four of the victims were cadets and the fifth was the son of a friend. They ranged in age from eight to 14, explained Trevor Parry-Jones, prosecuting.

Finnigan also took cadets to Altcar firing range and camping trips in Royden Park on the Wirral where he sexually assaulted one of the victims. The boy was so traumatised that he slept outside the tent all night and got hypothermia.

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Mr Parry-Jones said that the Army Cadets were seen as a means of instilling interest and pride in boys and was a potential route into the regular army. “Sadly that could not be said to have been in the mind of the defendant who by his convictions seemed to have used the Army Cadets as a means of providing him with a source of boys whom he could groom and thereafter abuse," he said.

Stephen Finnigan was convicted of 29 offences involving indecent assault and rape. Image: Lynda RoughleyStephen Finnigan was convicted of 29 offences involving indecent assault and rape. Image: Lynda Roughley
Stephen Finnigan was convicted of 29 offences involving indecent assault and rape. Image: Lynda Roughley | Lynda Roughley

“Those boys did not gain the security that they should have enjoyed and as was revealed in their evidence they suffered considerably both as a direct result of the assaults but also in their emotional development.”

He said that many of the victims came from poor families and the defendant was popular as he provided cigarettes and beer which he also took to a flat where boys gathered.

One victim went to the police after reading about the Jimmy Saville abuse and left a message but did not follow it up. He effectively buried it as did the second victim, who was aged about 12, when Finnigan began assaulting him culminating in buggery. “His life effectively collapsed, he resorted to drugs,” said Mr Parry-Jones.

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The third victim who was assaulted at Royden Park eventually told police what had happened after seeing an article in the local media about Finnigan receiving a medal for 'exceptional service' to the Army Cadets.

The next cadet victim, who Finnigan attempted to have anal sex with, read his own graphic impact statement to the court on Friday, in which he told how his life had spiralled out of control and led to him committing various offences and being imprisoned. It was only when his solicitor encouraged him to tell her about his past, convinced there was something in his background, that the details emerged and the police were informed.

Merseyside Police then began to investigate and were able to trace the previous reports made and re-interview the victims, said Mr Parry-Jones.

The court heard that the fifth victim’s family had regarded the defendant almost as an uncle. His family life was poor and Finnigan gave him the attention he craved and groomed him.  He told his dad about the abuse but he severely beat him and social services intervention failed to result in a police investigation.

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Two other impact statements were read to the judge in which those victims also told how they had been left haunted by his attacks.

The court was told that Finnigan only has one previous offence but this was in 2012 for assaulting a cadet by setting fire to his hair as he believed it was too long and this led to the end of his Army Cadet involvement.

He had been convicted of 29 offences involving indecent assault, indecency with a child and an offence which would now be charged as rape. Finnigan, who appeared via video link, continues to maintain his innocence. He had claimed they had conspired together to get him into trouble.

He repeatedly shook his head during the proceedings and smiled when sentenced. He was ordered to sign the Sex Offenders Register for life.